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Arka - Ear Stretching Jewellery and Tribal Earrings Shop in the UK.

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I am not my body.

The mantra of all body modders the world over. The belief or understanding that you are not your body. That you exist beyond the flesh and blood that holds you erect. That a part of you is eternal, and never changing. That your body is transient and will die and decay, but that which is really you will ride on, further exploring the realms of consciousness... oh yeah!
Ötzi the Iceman, (3300BC)

Ear stretching has been practiced by people all over the world from ancient times. Bone , Horn , Wood and Stone were generally carved for ear stretching, but other organic materials that had the right shape naturally, from shells to teeth and claws, were also used.

Even mummified bodies with stretched earlobes have been discovered, including the oldest mummified body discovered to date, that of Ötzi the Iceman, (3300BC) which was found in an Italian glacier. This mummy had a stretch of somewhere between 7 - 11mm (1 to 000 gauge) in diameter. He also had tattoos. We've been stretching our earlobes and tattooing our bodies in europe for over 5000 years!

The urge to decorate and modify our bodies is ancient and deep rooted, and shows no sign of stopping. Personally, I think most ear piercings in the past would have been large gauge, or at least turned out that way. I cant imagine prehistoric peoples wearing earings with a bar only a millimeter thick !
Rapa Nui

The stylised Moai we use in our logo is one of the famous giant 'Easter Island' Heads. 'Easter Island' is traditionally known as 'Rapa Nui'. The polynesian tribals who built these sculptures were famous for their stretched ear lobes. Easter Island, is situated in the southeast Pacific over 1,000 miles from the other islands of Eastern Polynesia and some 1,400 miles west of South America, it is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world.

Rapa Nui
Easter Island: Mysteries of a Lost World
There was recently a very interesting documentary about Rapa Nui on BBC4 called "Easter Island: Mysteries of a Lost World" featuring the work of Dr Jago Cooper.

"The contrast between the majestic statues of Easter Island and the desolation of their surroundings is stark. For decades Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as the islanders call it, has been seen as a warning from history for the planet as a whole - wilfully expend natural resources and the collapse of civilisation is inevitable.

But archaeologist Dr Jago Cooper believes this is a disastrous misreading of what happened on Easter Island. He believes that its culture was a success story not a failure, and the real reasons for its ultimate demise were far more shocking. Cooper argues that there is an important lesson that the experience of Easter Island can teach the rest of the world, but it doesn't begin by blaming its inhabitants for their own downfall.

This film examines the latest scientific and archaeological evidence to reveal a compelling new narrative, one that sees the famous statues as only part of a complex culture that thrived in isolation. Cooper finds a path between competing theories about what happened to Easter Island to make us see this unique place in a fresh light."

A short clip from the documentary is on YouTube search for the full documentary on BBCIplayer.

Stretched Ear Lobes
There are lots of surviving wood sculptures from Rapa Nui. The sculptures all share a number of stylistic features; bald crania, prominent brow ridges and goatee beards!? Most of them depict the stretched earlobes that most of the men and women had, until the practice was discouraged by christian missionaries at the end of the nineteenth century. The stretched ear lobes are frequently depicted with ear plugs or flesh tunnels carved from shark bones !

"Orejones" means "big ears" in Spanish, and was used to describe Inca royalty; Hanau Eepe was once said to mean "long ears" and referred to the ruling class on Easter Island (vs. the Hanau Momoko or "short ears"). Stretched Earlobes were also a status symbol in elsewhere in the world ! If you dont believe me.. look it up.
Photo: Jon Bodsworth

Not many people know that Tutankhamen had stretched ear lobes... This is a picture of his inner coffin. Elaborate large gauge earrings were also found with bars about 10mm wide.
Death MaskDeath Mask
Photo: Erik Hooymans

This is the famous death mask
with stretched holes clearly visible

The Boy KingThe Boy King
No-one knows why he isnt depicted actually wearing any earrings, even though his ears are clearly stretched, as is also seen in this depiction of him as a boy.

Photo: Jon Bodsworth
The Buddha

Buddha, as an aristocratic and wealthy prince had long stretched ears, He wore heavy gold earrings as a status symbol, very bling.. the more gold you had, the more you wore in your ears. The weight stretched his ear lobes dramatically.
When he finally renounced his wealth and discarded his jewelry, he ear lobes were permanently stretched. As a way of rememberiing Buddhas act of personal self-sacrifice, in walking away from his wealth, all succeeding images of Buddhas show his stretched ear lobes, but without jewellery.
The Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama

Images of Buddha from India, Tibet, Thailand and Indonesia, although stylistically different, all emphasise his long stretched ears.
Siddhartha Gautama
Rising Fawn

Major George Lowrey, also known as Rising Fawn, (1770-1852), Assistant Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and member of the Executive Council. ! and he was half Scotish !
He was a banker, soldier, law enforcement officer, planter, breeder, and political leader, and he had massively stretched ears.
He wears a turban, saltire sash, and medal he received from the President of the United States, holds a wampum belt symbolic of his high office in tribal government, and has silver nose and ear ornaments of a Sephardic Jewish design. What a crossover !
His father came from Scotland and his mother was the daughter and granddaughter of Echota Cherokee chiefs. We reckon like Rising Fawn very much.
Rising Fawn
Thailand, Hmong People,

Photos: Steve Evans

Hill tribes live in the mountainous region of Thailand's north. Thais call them "chao khao" (mountain people). Each tribe keeps its own language, beliefs, and customs. Hmong woman wear huge ear lobe tunnels.

They start stretching their ears at a very young age, and wear very large metal tunnels throughout their whole lives.

Thailand, Hmong People,
Photo: Agencia Brasil

This man is from the Rikbaktsa tribe in Brazil. These are the largest stretches I've ever seen. We reckon theyre about 110-120mm wide... I think the plates are made of clay.

From: Buschan, Georg (1900): Die Sitten der Völker.

Lirong woman with heavily extended earlobes. Circa 1900. She seems to be wearing her wealth on her ears, which was and still is a common practice for certain tribal peoples.

Peru, Sican.Peru, Sican.
photo by Gryffindor

Ceremonial knife from Sicán in Peru. 850-1050 A.D.. This so-called tumi knife was given into the tombs of rich families in the norther coastal areas of modern-day Peru. This golden insignia depicts a richly ornated dignitary, with highly stretched ear lobes, who himself is holding a sacrificial knife in his hand. He was probably a priest or had some function as such. Originally the earlobes had turquoise inlaid in them. The backside is decorated with tear-shaped gold leaf.

Ethnologisches Museum Dahlem Berlin

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